In the manpage of less the up- and down-arrow keys aren't mentioned in the context of normal navigation, yet on Debian Linux (8.2) they obviously work to scroll up and down. Why is this? A lesskey file is mentioned in the manpage, maybe it is defined there? I can't find this file anywhere, does it exist in the standard installation of Debian?

1 Answer 1


The manual page, e.g, as you might find on OSX or Unix commands is incomplete:

  • Among other things, less initializes itself using the termcap strings for the cursor keys, home/page keys, pageup/pagedown keys.
  • In most configurations, it is also possible to override the termcap settings with environment variables beginning LESS_TERMCAP_, e.g., LESS_TERMCAP_ku to override the ku (cursor-up) string.

Looking at the source code, there's a table cmdtbl in decode.c which gives initial key-bindings, e.g.,

    'k',0,                          A_B_LINE,
    'y',0,                          A_B_LINE,
    CONTROL('Y'),0,                 A_B_LINE,
    SK(SK_CONTROL_K),0,             A_B_LINE,
    CONTROL('P'),0,                 A_B_LINE,
    SK(SK_UP_ARROW),0,              A_B_LINE,

You may be able to see the pattern here: they all go back one line. But I do not see any of that in the manual page.

Further reading:

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